Ok, before you flame me with your flamethrowing squirt gun, let me just say that I think AOC is a fine restaurant. Still, given the rave reviews the place receives on this board (and elsewhere), I find that it really doesn't live up to the hype.
Been there 3 times, the most recent being this past weekend.
First, I like the look of the place. The wine bar and the charcuterie bar are a pretty cool configuration.
But the food, while good, leaves a bit to be desired. I don't like the dates - never really did. Maybe one bite, but that's more than enough for me.
I'm ambivalent about the whole tapas concept and fervor sweeping LA currently. It's cool, but really nothing "new" IMO, given that it's sort of a Chinese Banquet Style a la "lazy Susan" combined with a dim sum mentality. Whatever. I like good food, whether on small, big or medium plates.
But at AOC, regardless of the size of the plates, many of the dishes either seemed cramped ("help, I need a bigger plate to show off my wares") or just a bit contrived in order to fit and make it appearing interesting on a smaller scale. Like the trout with the beets and horseradish, why? Had squid also, a bit fishy and uninspired -- as if Goin was saying, "hey look, I got you fresh squid, so who cares if I put enough attention to cooking it ..." The black rice that came with the squid was, well, just black - no real sea-worthiness to the rice was imparted from the squid.
And don't get me started on desserts. The tarts, whether fruit or otherwise, always seem lacking in flavor. The chocolate dishes always tasted of the Hershey-bar variety -- they looked like chocolate and even smelled like chocolate, but between the lips it was always a bit like, "uh, where's the beef?"